The curse of perpetual motion

Avantika Sinha
Sep 04, 2012

Sharks are motion manifested in physical form. Everything about them – their streamlined shape, their sinewy movements, their focused eyes – signify speed, urgency and restlessness. In fact, unlike other fish, they do not have gas bladders so they cannot stop swimming or indeed sleep for long or they’ll sink to the bottom of the ocean. Some sharks continue swimming even when they’re asleep and others only sleep with one hemisphere of the brain at a time.

This is not dissimilar to how many executives in high pressure jobs experience life – if they stop swimmming they fear they’ll sink to the bottom. As a result they pay prices in the form of their health, time with family and peace of mind. They’re constantly nagged by the feeling that they should be spending more time on those things but when they do they’re nagged by the feeling that they’re letting their organization down since results and success clearly are, to an extent, proportional to the amount of invested time and work.

The answer on a theoretical level is clear – when you’re at work be at work, when you’re with your family be with your family and when you’re with your self be with your self. As the zen saying goes – Do one thing at a time. But on a practical level, as many of us have found, it’s a lot harder than it sounds. Our minds are easily distracted. In order to merge productivity with peace of mind what we need to do therefore is to train our mind to be focused on one thing and the practice created specifically to build this capacity is meditation.

Jon Kabat-Zinn ranked two groups of office workers in terms of a ‘happiness score’ through questionnaires and ECG scans before one of the groups was put through a 2 month meditation program and 4 months after the course finished. The results were startling. If you imagine 100 participants in the program, the happiness rankings of the meditators rose on average by 20 places. Another piece of research, published in the journal of applied psychology, showed the impact on effieciency as well – a 50% reduction in medical errors and 70% reduction of in malpractice suits post a stress reduction program in 22 hospitals compared to a control group of 22 hospitals which did not implement the program.

Ironically in order to be productive and peaceful you may have to be willing to invest 20mins a day learning to overcome your frustration at doing absolutely nothing.

Is it a risk you’re willing to take? Or would you rather live the life of a shark?